City business lady Agnes Kagure describes herself as a philanthropist, businesswoman, proponent for social change, mother and wife.
She spoke to Nation.co.ke about growing up in poverty and why she wants to see women rise to the top.
Tell us about your background?
Agnes Kagure is Wanjiku. She is living proof that with hard work, determination and focus, everything is possible, even under very difficult circumstances.
I was born in Nyeri County 44 years ago. We were eleven siblings in total. My parents were poor and I eventually came to Nairobi when I was 19 to escape from debilitating poverty in the village and seek opportunities.
Once in Nairobi, I couldn’t afford decent housing and started my life in the sprawling Mathare slums. I later moved to Dandora, Huruma and later Ruiru.
I chanced upon a job advertisement in the Daily Nation Newspaper seeking to recruit commission insurance agents. I got the job. It was a tough time and if you didn’t sell, you didn’t get paid.
By the time I left to start my own agency, I was a unit manager. My agency won top insurance agency award for three consecutive years.
Today, I have over 20 years of experience in executive management, real estate, hospitality and the pharmaceutical industry.
I want to make my story of ‘rags to riches’ possible for every Kenyan, that’s why I spend a considerate amount of time in philanthropy and the mantra for the Agnes Kagure Foundation is Turning Potentials into Possibilities.
What were your greatest challenges?
My greatest challenge in life was overcoming poverty and creating a successful future for my biological family, my adopted families and the many charities, youth and women’s groups that I support.
What decisions did you make at the time you regret the most?
20 years in the same industry is far too long and that is something I would have done differently.
Your insurance company you worked for was voted the best for three consecutive years. What was the secret to this success? Please take through this journey?
It’s easy to shine when you are the only star in the sky. But shining in the midst of other stars takes a lot of tact, talent and tenacity.
What advice would you give to the young ones who have given up in life?
Why should anyone give up when you are alive?
They need a combination of working hard and working smart. Working hard is about rolling up your sleeves and sweating it out. There is no replacement to the old fashioned hard work.
Don’t take shortcuts, work hard. Remember, you cannot harvest what you didn’t plant. So plant, plant, plant and plant some more.
But you must also work smart. Working smart is about using a double dose of your brain to work efficiently and effectively.
I love the way Forbes Magazine defines it, ‘working smart essentially means figuring out what your strengths are and building a network around you to build upon those in order to reach goals in the quickest and most efficient way possible.’
You were at some point nominated for the Nairobi County deputy governor position. Tell us how you learnt about this? What did you feel? Is it a job you were prepared for? What happened next?
When my name was floated, I heard it through the media. I wasn’t surprised because my name had also made it to the list for nomination to parliament in the Jubilee Party list as I had done a lot of work for the party during the campaigns.
I was honoured, humbled and grateful for the nomination.
What has worked for you in your marriage considering your busy schedule?
Priorities. God always comes first then family follows. I wake up at 5am and spend the first four hours in devotion to God and my family.
God created humans first, wealth came after.
I make breakfast every day Monday to Saturday then I’m involved in my daughters’ school coaching and other family duties. Sunday is my husband’s turn to make breakfast for the family. We look forward to it.
My husband has given me so much freedom which I do not misuse.
Who are your role models?
Professor Wangari Maathai who was also my village mate in Tetu.
My mother who raised eleven children single-handedly.
What are some of the achievements you are proud of?
Being a mother to two amazing children, being the best in the Association of Kenya Insurers and being recognised by the Thai King as a goodwill ambassador.
What would you change about your profession, given a chance?
To create conditions that make it easier for women to ascend to leadership.
How do you manage to look so young at 44?
Always seeking love, happiness, peace, contentment and prayer is the secret.
I avoid bitterness, harness the power of positivity, I’m kept vivacious by a caring and loving family
I always move on fast. I don’t hang on things too much. Let go and trust God to deal with the rest.
What do you do for leisure?
Spending time with my family. Plus, listening to Don Moen’s music and reading books.
I’m currently reading A history of the World in 21 Women by Jenni Murray and I’m also reading Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.
Better days are always ahead of us, not behind us